By Rev Fr Gerald Nwafor
I grew up in Onitsha precisely Odo-Akpu and to be more specific, 14 Nweje Lane. If you know the terrain very well, you will know that old cemetery, the place that inhabits Ogboomanu is not very far away from where I grew up. My family moved from Nweje Lane in 1997, so you can guess correctly how long I was visibly present in Odo-Akpu. It was for over twenty years and counting.
Along the Ogboomanu was the sale of weed, and other hard drugs. Many friends were caught up in the web of selling, using, or producing. There was always the mantra that it was not harmful if you had enough food to eat. There was the other mantra that it only makes you feel high and fearless. I have never seen a seller who said that his product is not good for you.
Even when Satan was selling the forbidden fruit to Adam and Eve, his pitch was excellent, and when they ate it their eyes opened, but the consequences were never explained, which the Americans would call hidden charges. The weed was always very cheap on the first day, likewise the white chalk (cocaine) until they get you involved, and the true price would strike you in the face.
If my memory serves me right, I cannot remember any of my childhood friends who engaged in the business of selling, using, or producing those illegal drugs who did not break down mentally. They all suffered mental challenges and, in some cases, permanent, while others temporary.
I did my pastoral work in a village in Anambra North where the young people used marijuana leaves to cook yam (Ji-igbo). It was a big occasion where they danced and drank hard liquor till daybreak. It was cost-effective because they needed to purchase the yam and other ingredients for the cooking. I tried to get as many young adults as possible into the Church community.
Most of the time when we lost someone, I would ask of his where about, the information I get was that he had joined the Yam Club. I would try to look for the individual, to woo him back to the Church and convince him of the dangers and menace of the Yam Club and the bad consequences of marijuana in the brain. I would say that I succeeded at the rate of 20%, because there was this belief that marijuana with yam gives you an enormous strength to do manual labour and other forms of masculine work.
I made the case that yam is high in carbohydrates and can do the work associated with marijuana. My advice fell on deaf ears because it was a village where manual labour produces the highest form of income. They were peasant farmers. The most annoying part of it was some parents allowing their kids to cook before going to the farm in the early hours. Many times, we had to rescue young adults who collapsed on their way to the farm after eating the Ji-igbo.
By the time I left my place of apostolate, there was a new substance in town. They said it came from China. The myth was that it is more active and healthier than marijuana, cocaine, and cannabis. It was cheaper and could do the work of the above ten times over. I asked for the name, and they said it was Mkpulu mmiri (methamphetamine or crystal meth).
I didn’t have the opportunity to see it or touch it. In a space of three months, I lost 50% of my young adult males in the majority and girls maybe 15%. It was so cheap that even the poorest people in my parish could afford it. I thought that hard drug use was very costly, but I was proved wrong in Mkpulu mmiri.
Only twenty Naira can afford a dose. I was complaining to my friend about the proliferation of hard drugs in my local village and how I was planning with some well-meaning citizens of the village to track down the seller whom we presumed were foreigners. My friend told me that I was wrong and that Mkpulu mmiri is in all the Eke, Oye, Afor, and Nkwo markets all over Igbo land.
I didn’t believe him, and we went to the four nearest markets to my village, I was shocked at what I discovered. He was correct and the highest customers were secondary school students. Primary five and six pupils were initiated into taking the substance and were told that it helps to bolster their knowledge. I am calling on the government to move into this epidemic before it is too late.
Mkpulu mmiri is ravaging the society today. The parents, the church leaders, government officials, and the police should know that there is a danger facing us in Anambra State. I interviewed young people who were initiated into the cult movement. They confessed that Mkpulu mmiri was the first thing they were given as part of the process of initiation and by the time they finished the initiation, they were high on methamphetamine. We went around some secondary schools, and it was clear that most public schools were infested with Mkpulu mmiri. Some of the kids would join the secret cult out of fear and use the Meth to appear manly.
Some girls are not left out. When hanging out with the male colleagues, some girls fall prey to the fraternity boys who would introduce them to the illegal substance. Three things breed an epidemic of hard drugs: First, it is affordable, second, it is available, and finally, it is allowed to foster. Mkpulu mmiri is very cheap, anyone can buy it.
You can find it on the street corners, marketplaces, and the school gates. It has not come to the consciousness of the government that there is a problem. The government is busy with ECOWAS and the Niger Republic while their own house is on fire. I wish they would direct their priorities very well towards this Mkpulu mmiri epidemic.